Butter – Monitoring Pollutants

Butter – Monitoring Pollutants

Music

Monitoring pollution using conventional methods is complicated and costly. But scientists have come up with an unconventional method using a substance found in virtually every household. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

KJ: “One of the challenges has been to develop reliable methods for sampling these chemicals in the environment. They are often present at very low concentrations in waters and in the air, and in the lower parts of the food chain.

Dr. Kevin Jones is a professor of Environmental Science at Lancaster University, in England.

KJ: “So one of the ideas that we hit upon was to use, actually, butter samples as a kind of cheap and relatively easy to sample matrix that we could compare from one country to another. These chemicals accumulate in the food chain and they particularly concentrate into fatty tissues and fatty materials. And obviously butter is very rich in fat. The conventional way in which people sample these chemicals in the environment has really been to use quite expensive air monitoring techniques. And, we need to be able to make these measurements all over the world, including in parts of the world where there’s really very little resource to do that monitoring. The logic behind using butter is that what is present in the food chain is controlled by what is taken up from grass or pastureland in this case. And what’s present in the grass is affected by deposition: chemicals being rained out or deposited from the atmosphere. So there’s a broad quantitative relationship between high levels in the air and high levels in the butter.”

According to Dr. Jones, although the pollutants are detectable in butter, the quantities present are typically too small to harm us. We’ll hear in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Butter - Monitoring Pollutants

Scientists have hit upon a cheap and effective pollution monitoring tool - butter.
Air Date:05/15/2015
Scientist:
Transcript:

Butter - Monitoring Pollutants

Music

Monitoring pollution using conventional methods is complicated and costly. But scientists have come up with an unconventional method using a substance found in virtually every household. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

KJ: "One of the challenges has been to develop reliable methods for sampling these chemicals in the environment. They are often present at very low concentrations in waters and in the air, and in the lower parts of the food chain.

Dr. Kevin Jones is a professor of Environmental Science at Lancaster University, in England.

KJ: "So one of the ideas that we hit upon was to use, actually, butter samples as a kind of cheap and relatively easy to sample matrix that we could compare from one country to another. These chemicals accumulate in the food chain and they particularly concentrate into fatty tissues and fatty materials. And obviously butter is very rich in fat. The conventional way in which people sample these chemicals in the environment has really been to use quite expensive air monitoring techniques. And, we need to be able to make these measurements all over the world, including in parts of the world where there's really very little resource to do that monitoring. The logic behind using butter is that what is present in the food chain is controlled by what is taken up from grass or pastureland in this case. And what's present in the grass is affected by deposition: chemicals being rained out or deposited from the atmosphere. So there's a broad quantitative relationship between high levels in the air and high levels in the butter."

According to Dr. Jones, although the pollutants are detectable in butter, the quantities present are typically too small to harm us. We'll hear in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.